Eight days from now, the New School in New York is scheduled to host a panel on anti-Semitism featuring two activists who support boycotting Israel, Linda Sarsour and Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Because that panel will denounce the ways that anti-Semitism is used to shield Israel from criticism, the New School is under attack from pro-Israel groups; it is under pressure to shut the debate down.
The Anti Defamation League is opposing the event, saying that Sarsour and Vilkomerson foment anti-Semitism. The very blackmail that the panel is about! Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, wrote a week back:
Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.
Seriously there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease (such as @adl_national) would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together. It’s a sad day for the @theNewSchool.
I am told that Jake Tapper of CNN and Pam Geller retweeted the Greenblatt tweet; and that the Zionist community is organizing a protest in front of the New School the day of the event.
Greenblatt echo-chambers Israel supporter Liel Leibovitz, who writes in Tablet that Jewish Voice for Peace is “odious” and a cover for anti-Semitism.
Alongside Sarsour will be Rebecca Vilkomerson, who heads the odious Jewish Voice for Peace. The group, as an ADL report aptly put it, “uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and to provide the movement with a veneer of legitimacy.”
The panel is important because Linda Sarsour represents the main threat to the Democratic-left consensus in support of Israel today: the real possibility that the Democratic Party might begin to reflect its progressive base, and call for sanctions on Israel. Sarsour is threatening because she has been able to gain mainstream prestige– as a leader of the Women’s March against Trump– even though she is also an unapologetic advocate for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Traditionally, pro-Israel forces have been successful in marginalizing such voices. James Zogby, for instance, has just been thrown off the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee.
But Sarsour keeps gaining prominence. She will get another honor on December 6, when she is to be feted by Jews For Economic and Racial Justice (JFREJ) at its Marshall Meyer Risk Taker Award (“for her bold leadership of Arab and Muslim communities, her steadfast commitment to standing with the Jewish community…”).
The New School panel will examine the ways that anti-Semitism is used to blunt criticism of Israel.
Antisemitism is harmful and real. But when antisemitism is redefined as criticism of Israel, critics of Israeli policy become accused and targeted more than the growing far-right.
Join us for a discussion on how to combat antisemitism today.
The event is cosponsored by Jacobin magazine and Haymarket Books, which published JVP’s new book On Anti-Semitism. It will be moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (And it will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/JacobinMag.)
The ADL’s Greenblatt is worried that the disruption of the discourse is making it harder and harder to be both pro-Israel and progressive. He is trying to thread that needle himself on his twitter feed. Praising neoconservative Bret Stephens as “wise” one minute, while extolling Ta-Nehisi Coates in the next breath.
The concern is that the bipartisan consensus on Israel is breaking up. Many in the official Jewish community are trying to keep leftwingers off the stage. Here, for instance, Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council denounces the alleged anti-Semitism of the left.
It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized. Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic.
It is a sign of the Palestinian solidarity movement’s strength that it is drawing such attacks.